South Chilco Mountain

HARD 9 reviews

South Chilco Mountain is a 10 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Athol, Idaho that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from May until November. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

10.0 miles
3356 feet
Out & Back

dogs on leash





horseback riding

mountain biking

nature trips


trail running




wild flowers






South Chilco Mountain is a locally significant mountain and the highest on the western front of the Coeur d’Alene Mountains, a sub-range of the Bitterroots in north Idaho. It is 5,661 feet in elevation and has a respectable 1,526 feet of prominence, both of which are ranked third in Kootenai County. The abrupt rise of these mountains is approximately 3,500 feet, which is not large, but with the heavy coat of evergreen forests and numerous large and small lakes nestled against the lower elevations it’s a very scenic place. The mountain stands out particularly from Hayden Lake, north of Coeur d’Alene, which lies nearly 3,300 feet below. The lakes largest tributary, Hayden Creek flows off the southwest aspect of the mountain feeding the lake with cold clear waters through dark, inland rainforests of western redcedar and Hemlock. The upper elevations support open stands of subalpine fir and beargrass glades broken up by some very large talus slopes. These large rocks are billion year old sedimentary ripple rocks raised up from an ancient sea bed. The mountain looks out over the Rathdrum Prairie into Washington beyond the city of Spokane. Several lakes including Coeur d’Alene, Hayden, Lower Twin and Hauser are visible to the south and west. Across the south end of the Purcell Trench lies the southern terminus of the extensive Selkirk Mountains along the border of Idaho and Washington. To the easterly direction the apparently endless waves of the Coeur d’Alene Mountains, broken up by the highly dendritic fingers of the Coeur d’Alene River; extend to the northern Bitterroots and on into Montana. To the northeast the view across the broad Clark Fork Valley is highlighted by the Snowshoe Peak and other summits of the high Cabinet Mountains. To the southeast below the South Fork Coeur d’Alene basin, the St. Joe Mountains rise in a similar, but generally slightly higher manner than their northern neighbors. This trail begins on Bunco Road, NF-209, at coordinates: 47.905699, -116.513223. It follows Forest Service trail number 14. (There is an alternate trailhead at the south end of trail 14, at coordinates: 47.849840, -116.559903, but the road to the south trailhead can be a challenge to find and negotiate.) The hike to South Chilco Mountain entails hiking up Chilco Mountain most of the way, descending into Chilco Saddle, then ascending South Chilco Mountain. South Chilco Mountain is the taller of the two peaks. Chilco Mountain has an elevation of 5635 feet, while South Chilco Mountain has an elevation of 5661 feet. (The sign on the peak appears to be inaccurate.) The hike includes some considerable changes in altitude, and some switchbacks, which might challenge some hikers. The distance from the Bunco Road trailhead to Chilco Mountain is 2 miles, one way – for a 4 mile round-trip hike. The hike to Chilco Saddle is 3.5 miles one way. The hike to South Chilco Mountain is 5 miles one way, for a round-trip distance of 10 miles. Forest Service Trail #14 is 7 miles in length, so out and back is 14 miles total.

8 months ago

I hiked all the way to South Chilco in 3 hours; 2.5 on the return leg. The distance to reach both peaks coupled with the grade of the trail is what earns this journey the "hard" rating. Only attempt the hike if you're fairly fit; carry plenty of water.

The trial is well established; wide and obstacle free and the initial ascent to the north peak is 2 miles uphill. The spur trail to the north peak has a section that travels through a field of loose rock but nothing too crazy. The trail to the south peak is fairly steep but milder than the ascent to the north summit.

8 months ago

FS332 is a bit dicey in blind turns at times especially with on coming traffic. We drove out around 9:30a and passed no less than six cars/quads. If you are a conditioned hiker this is a manageable hike. Excellent views and photo ops at the top. No accessible streams or lakes so bring plenty of water. Nicely maintained and well marked trail.

8 months ago

Hiked all the way up to the South Chilco summit. I hiked just N Chilco last year, but wanted to get to the other summit. So far, this is my favorite hike outside of Coeur d'Alene. It's pretty strenuous going up North, but South Chilco has an easier grade. It's about 10 miles total roundtrip to summit South Chilco. Perfect day hike! You can also pack a lunch and have a great picnic with lovely views of Hayden and surrounding area from S Chilco. Definitely recommend.

8 months ago

If you follow the entire trail, the total distance is 14 miles. We hiked it on 6/21/17 for a total distance of 11 miles there and back (we wandered around the summits a bit too). We made it to North Chilco Peak, which is about two miles in, through South Chilco Peak, about 5 miles in, before turning around. The views from North Chilco are better, in my opinion, but there's nothing quite like bagging two summits in one hike! Especially with sister peaks:) If you want a shorter hike, it is well worth it to hike the 2 miles up to North Chilco, the view is incredible there. We ran into a surprising amount of people on this hike, about 5 or 6 groups. The flowers are beautiful right now, especially the bear grass, but there is more bear grass on the North Chilco side vs the South Chilco side. The first two miles are definitely the steepest, but if you power through it, the views are well worth it. Note: do not confuse the first lookout point with North Chilco Peak (I did that the first couple times I hiked this and I'm so irritated at myself!) The first lookout point is beautiful, but keep going a little ways and you'll see a sign that says North Chilco is 1/4 mile away. Follow the sign up and you will be rewarded with an incredible 360 view. Happy hiking!

9 months ago

I hiked the total length of trail 14 today for a total of 14 miles. (My legs are so tired now, I can barely walk.) There is still a surprising amount of snow on the north slope of Chilco Mountain, in the saddle, and on the north slope of South Chilco Mountain. Most of the snow is packed hard, so it is only a minor inconvenience to navigate. The wildflowers are in full bloom, and are magnificent. The views from the higher parts of the trail are almost surreal in beauty. For anyone daunted by the first 1.5 miles of this trail, please know that most of the trail is much more merciful than the steep switchback beginning.

This is absolutely one of my favorite hikes in North Idaho.

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